As the overflowing contents of my cupboards regularly fall out top of my head, I am rudely thrown back to reality and I curse my eternal lack of kitchen space. It is at the point now where I have to store half my pans in the bathroom cupboard. I am not living in a bucolic farmhouse with acres of land for the chickens and homegrown radishes, but in a small flat with an even smaller kitchen in South-West London. A life of whimsy and back-lit with nostalgia this is not.
It is, however, amazing what you can achieve in even the tiniest of kitchen spaces. I do find that having a few jars of homemade jam on a shelf does go a tiny way to imagining you have an ordered and organised kitchen, especially if you squint and avoid looking at anything else at the same time. I would add a caveat to this recipe, that I would not usually extol the virtues of raspberries so early in the season; June and July are time for sumptuous strawberries and raspberries are a later treat. However, the mild weather seems to have brought a batch of very good English raspberries to the shops and markets at the moment. Please taste them if you can before you buy; a promisingly deep ruby raspberry, that promises so much can deliver very little. If you want to be safe, save this recipe until the end of August and September, when wonderful Scottish raspberries will put in a much-appreciated appearance.
I have written about making jam before, but I wanted to include this particular jam recipe as I could not believe that it was so fast to do. The difference in this recipe is the use of specialist jam sugar-i.e sugar with added pectin. I know, I know- I have said before; you do not have to use jam sugar. If you boil most jam long enough it will come to setting point and I have had a few unhappy incidents with jam sugar that has given the sugar such an unyielding texture, it is like trying to spread wall filler. However, further experiments have shown that it is possible to use jam sugar and still have a lovely loose set for your jam. By happy accident, it is also ridiculously fast, but the margin for error is small, so you need to be even more vigilant than usual to avoid jam bouncier than a trampoline.
For some reason, jam sugar seems to make the jam mixture spit even more viciously when it boils, so please be careful. Wear something that covers your arms at the very least. It is best to do this jam in two batches if you do not have a very large pan, just to be safe. There is also a distinct possibility that your kitchen will look very much like a homicidal crime scene by the time you have finished. Not really a scene that conjures up the W.I and village fairs, but you can’t have everything.
Really Rapid Raspberry Jam
makes 4 large jars
800g jam sugar
juice of 1 lemon
a knob of butter
First, sterilise your jars; wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water, rinse and put in an oven set to about 140°C while you make the jam.
Put a saucer in the freezer.
Put the raspberries in the largest pan you have. Do not wash them unless you absolutely have to, as the water will affect the resulting jam.Take a potato masher and mash them a bit. If you do not like lot of pips in your raspberry jam-now is the time to sieve some out. Add the sugar and lemon juice and heat very slowly, stirring all the time, so the jam melts down evenly and without crystalising. When the sugar has completely dissolved, bring the heat up to high. Keep stirring the mixture until the mixture is boiling. This is the potentially scalding part as the mixture will rise high up as it boils and look quite volcanic.
Boil for 5 minutes (make sure you use a timer), then take the pan off the heat, add the butter and get your saucer out of the freezer. Place a small dollop of the mixture onto it. Leave it a moment and then push the edge of the dollop gently with your finger. If the surface wrinkles, your jam has reached setting point, if it doesn’t, put the pan back on the heat and boil for another minute-no more. Repeat the saucer test until the surface of the mixture wrinkles on the saucer and you can see the jam has set.
Take the pan off the heat and leave it to rest for 15 minutes. At the same time, take the jars out of the oven, being careful not to touch the inside of the jar or the lids with your fingers or a cloth. You need the jars warm when you fill them, as cold jars will crack when filled with hot jam.
After fifteen minutes, use your funnel, or a large spoon, to put the jam into the jars. The mixture will still be really hot. Fill to the brim and place a waxed disc on top. Screw the lid on tightly and leave to cool completely.
This jam will last for up to a year if kept in cool place and out of direct sunlight. Once opened, it should be stored in the fridge.